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How Jenny Minimizes the Environmental Impact of Her Chicken Farm

Jenny Rhodes knows a thing or two about operating a chicken farm with a low environmental impact.

An educator of Agriculture and Natural Resources with a drive to make positive change, Jenny has served as President of both Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. and Maryland Association of County Agriculture Agents.

Her own poultry and irrigated grain farm feeds 30,000 people annually, producing more than 500,000 broiler chickens every year.

“Being a successful farmer is all about raising animals the right way while minimizing impact on our planet – all while increasing efficiency.”

Over her 30 years of chicken farming, Jenny has seen great improvements in the technology and conservation efforts around the Chesapeake Bay area. She uses these innovations to continuously reduce the environmental impact of her farm.

How Jenny Manages Water on Her Chicken Farm

In the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland, where Jenny’s farm is located, water conservation is paramount to sustainable farming practices.

All newly established farms in the state are required to have a storm water management plan. Jenny makes sure that all water leaving her farm, including water running of the top of her chicken houses, percolates through a pond she installed on her farm. Under the updated storm water management guidelines, newer farms with updated storm water management plans must be certain no water leaves the farm by creating a permanent reservoir.

Managing water within the chicken house is also a top priority. Jenny installed special nipple-drinkers that limits water waste.

Jenny also planted vegetation throughout the farm. Adding greenery to the farm helps with water retention and limits soil erosion. These vegetative environmental buffers also serve as windbreaks for the farm and can even catch particles and dust blown out of the chicken house.

How Jenny Recycles Poultry Litter

Just like water conservation, poultry litter recycling is an incredibly important aspect of chicken farming.

“It is a cycle.” Jenny says, “The fertilizer is used on crops like corn. The corn is then used in chicken feed.”

100% of the poultry litter on Jenny’s farm is recycled. Most is sold to other farmers who raise crops. The rest of the litter is recycled as ‘slow release plant food.’

“We are doing a complete litter clean out on our farm. This is how we recycle. We take the litter out of the poultry houses and recycle it as fertilizer and recycle as slow release plant food. The crop farmer then takes our litter and spreads it onto the field in accordance with a personalized nutrient management plan that has been sanctioned by the state.”

Every farmer’s nutrient management plan takes a specialized, prescription approach. First, the soil and litter is tested for nutrient levels. Next, a university will use this information to maximize the benefits of litter application.

How Jenny Protects Air Quality

Jenny plants greenery around her farm to help lower her carbon footprint. These plants, especially pollinators, provide a resource for insects and other wildlife that call the local ecosystem home.

Jenny shares, “Our environmental buffers are a powerful tool. They allow farms to reduce the impact of emissions and create a sustainable flow of water in the ecosystem around the farm.”

Jenny regularly monitors the ammonia levels within her chicken houses. Although useful in fertilizers, ammonia present in chicken litter can be damaging to chicken, farmer and environmental health. For this reason, farmers take advantage of litter treatments that aid in the retention of ammonia in litter, reducing emissions and boosting the health of poultry on farms. If ammonia levels reach higher than 20 parts per million, farmers can adjust airflow to guarantee a healthy living environment for their flocks.

Jenny’s Ongoing Sustainability Journey

Jenny is passionate about environmental sustainability on her chicken farm. For Jenny, sustainability is a continuous process open for innovation and improvement.

“Farmers were truly the first environmentalists. We will embrace the newest practices because we want to do what is right.”

Jenny’s sustainability contributions include serving as the Maryland Governor’s appointee to the Regulatory Reform Commission and as a Poultry and Egg committee member for the Maryland Farm Bureau. She is also a board member for the Queen Anne’s County Farm Bureau and Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.

Jenny currently sits on the steering committee of the Delmarva Land & Litter Challenge.

Interested in learning more about Jenny and her chicken farm? Get to Know Jenny, A Chicken Farmer and Agriculture Educator.